Cool red, warm red

I’m quite a fan of the cool red/hot red colour combination. Most of the stitching I’ve done recently has been in greys and earth tones, and having finished a large piece just recently, I thought I’d splash out into bright colour for a change. I’m thinking about produced a sample using some of the fabrics and threads that I dyed with cochineal last summer. I’ve not managed to find any use for them so far, and it’s about time I did. As a taster for this, I decided to use a couple of sketchbook pages working with the reds. Here’s a photo of one of the pages:Cool red/hot red

For this I used Derwent Inktense blocks and pencils. You can use these on paper and fabric, with or without added water. I laid down some block colour and then used my new waterbrushes to add water in a fairly precise way. (I wrote about waterbrushes in my last post). You’ll be starting to think I’m sponsored by Derwent, but actually, no. (If anyone from Derwent is reading this, I’m open to suggestions!) – I just think these are really good products.

The black is two different widths of fineliner which I applied once the page had dried out. The design is based on something I did years ago. I used transparent acetates and permanent marker to make three different random designs – just a few blobs and shapes. Then I laid them over each other until I got what I fondly imagined to be a pleasing composition. Great fun to do with little time or effort involved. Anyway, I used one of my drawings taken from the acetate shapes as a basis for this design. I don’t suppose I’ll do anything with it in any direct way, but at the moment I just want to play around with the colours before I move to fabric. Finally, here’s a detail: Cool red/hot red detail

The Derwent waterbrush

Well, June passed in something of a blur…. I had lots to do. Still have, for that matter, but work is not quite so pressing at the moment. So I’m picking up the threads of my blog, once more, and making time for some creative stuff. When I was in London in the middle of May, I did a whirlwind shop in Cass Art on Charing Cross Road – I think I may have mentioned this. I bought a few things I wanted/needed/had planned to buy, but of course if you’re a fan of art shops you’ll know how difficult it is to come out without something extra. On this occasion the extras included a set of Staedtler fineliners (and what a useful thing the fineliner is) and the subject of today’s post, a set of Derwent waterbrushes. You’ll see from the photo that I paid £7.50 for these.Derwent waterbrushes

A couple of days ago I got round to trying out the waterbrushes. I thought they would be useful for spreading a bit of water about when using the Inktense pencils. And I’m pleased to report that they are indeed useful for this. I had a bit of trouble at first working out how to take them apart. I know it sounds pretty dim of me, but I couldn’t see how to get the tops off at first. I pulled them about a bit, then realised you need to give the tops a twist and a tug, at the same time, and then the protective caps part company with the rest of the waterbrush, revealing the actual brush. I realised afterwards that they must have been designed this way – you need the top to fit pretty snugly otherwise any water in the reservoir could easily leak out. The brushes are made of white nylon, and come in three sizes – fine, medium and a broader chisel shape which is useful for covering larger areas. You unscrew the water reservoir, fill it with water and screw it back together again. Very easy. Then you give the flexible reservoir a gentle squeeze till a drop of water comes out, and away you go. It’s a very good product and a snip at £7.50.

I’m wondering about using them for bleach to lift colour off fabric, but I haven’t yet tried this. I suspect you might need an extra set to use for bleach only. I might shell out another £7.50 sometime and try this. Next post, I’ll write about the sketchbook work I was doing that involved the use of these waterbrushes.

Does anyone reading this have any experience of using the waterbrush? Do let me know if you have any tips to share.

More on developing an idea

Today I thought I’d follow up my last post by writing a little bit more on developing an idea. I’ve filled a few sketchbook pages with some different approaches, but using the same theme as previously. Sketchbook work using white soluble pencil

Last time I wrote about the A3 book of Khadi paper. Mostly, it’s off-white, but there are a few pages of a thinner, but still robust, brown paper. As I’d reached one of these in the book I decided to work through the design in white. This is using a white water-soluble pencil, then adding a wash of water. It doesn’t actually dissolve very well in water but it’s enough to add some interesting visual texture. When I did this, a week or so ago, I didn’t have a Derwent Inktense pencil in white. However, I have now. I was in London last week for a meeting in the Strand, which is very near the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, and also Charing Cross Road. I was rushing to get the train home, so stepped smartly past the galleries (one of which I would definitely have visited if I’d had more time), but stopped for a very brief look at Cass Art. If you’re familiar with London and keen on art you will certainly know about Cass Art which is a terrific place to shop for pencils, paper, paint etc. The shop on Charing X Road is very small, but they have a big branch in Islington and another big one in Hampstead both of which I’ve been to. When I first discovered it, they didn’t do mail order, and didn’t have any branches outside London. But they do now, so do have a look.

One of the things I bought at Cass Arts on my brief visit was a tin (24) of Inktense pencils. I’ve held back from doing this in the past because I was concerned that I wouldn’t use them and it would be a waste of cash. But I’ve got through so much Inktense recently I think I can justify it. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

Sketchbook work in silver acrylicAnd here’s what I did on the other side of the brown page. I had to press on rather hard with the white pencil and when I turned the page I found a clear impression of the design. I filled in the negative space using silver acrylic paint. The brown lines are slightly raised and I’m pleased with the effect, even though it’s really pretty accidental.

I’ve got more ideas for things to do in this book, and will add another post if and when I get round to them. Unfortunately I’m short of time; chateau Gowthorpe requires quite a lot of redecorating and, instead of going on holiday, we’ve decided to stay at home for a fortnight to slap a bit of paint around and generally spruce the place up. Today I’ve been rubbing down paintwork and getting very dusty and tired, so not much arty stuff going on here at the moment.

Developing an idea

I thought I’d write today about developing an idea, specifically the idea Layered fabric sample - close upI started with last year that was inspired by my visits to the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may remember this image; this is of work in progress on a sample using blocks of satin stitch to appliqué various ground layers in different fabrics. I’ve taken this idea up again recently and have worked a sample in white, antique white and cream, adding in a bit of lace to the ground work: Whitework - inspired by Paul Klee

As well as exploring the idea in stitch I’ve also been working on it in a sketchbook. This book is around A3 in size, and is filled with Khadi paper. I bought it at the Royal Academy shop where they sell a few artists materials. I’m very much taken with Khadi paper and I thought the large A3 format was very inspiring. So far I’ve mostly used Derwent Inktense pencils, which I have in a very limited range of colours (bought a few in a shop in Northumberland that I happened to come across). NB – have linked to Amazon as there are lots of customer reviews of the product on there. I’ve also used the Inktense blocks – my son bought me a set of 12 for my birthday last year – but on this project so far the pencils have been more useful. I just love the Inktense products. You can use them dry to draw on paper, then add varying amounts of water for different effects. Or wet the paper and then draw, to get an even more intense colour.

I’ve filled several pages so far. Below are a couple of shots of one of the pages I’ve completed. I’ll let you know more about this project as it develops.

Paul Klee inspired drawingInspired by Paul Klee


Life drawing

When this is published I’ll be in London attending a life drawing course. I’ve written before about the tuition in drawing I’ve received, and about the courses offered by Rachel Clark. This will be the first of her courses I’ve attended since around 2008, so it’s been a long break. It’s not so much that the courses themselves are expensive, but once you’ve added in the cost of travelling there, and staying in London, it all becomes rather costly. However, I decided that it was high time that I did another of Rachel’s courses and I’ve been very much looking forward to it. I booked and paid for it several months ago and I’ve been worried that the experience would be spoiled by my on-going problem of jaw pain. However, although that hasn’t gone, it has diminished and on quite a lot of days the pain is at a relatively low level. So I think I should be able to enjoy the experience fully.

The course runs over Saturday and Sunday, then on Monday morning I’m going to the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery – I wrote about this a few posts ago. I’ll report back via a blog post sometime during next week.

Mountmellick whitework

So, Mountmellick whitework – a bit of a departure for me as I’ve not previously tried this technique. However, I have now crawled my way to the end of the second module of the Stitchbusiness Masterclass and it’s time to abandon colour for a while and to examine texture in some detail. Over the next few months I will be trying out some different whitework techniques and I’m looking forward to doing something a little different.

For this piece I used an abstracted leaf design that I created several months ago.Abstracted leaf design

I did not follow the design exactly but instead just tried to get the general idea across. You can see a photo of the finished piece below, and a close-up.Mountmellick whiteworkMountmellick whitework close-up

I’ve used satin stitch, stem stitch and French knots; this is quite a limited range of stitches and traditional Mountmellick embroidery uses many more. I think my next piece might be a stitch sampler where I try out some more of the stitches. In this piece I achieved a little extra variation by using different thicknesses of Mountmellick thread.

This is was fun to do. Because the thread is relatively thick the work grows quite quickly. I think I feel inclined to explore this design further, but perhaps with more contrast and variety.

I drew the design onto the cotton fabric using an HB pencil. The obvious drawback with this approach is that there’s quite a significant risk of the fabric getting grubby. I tried hard to keep it clean, but really it could do with a wash. Tracy A Franklin and Nicola Jarvis recommend drawing the design in a pale blue coloured pencil. I’ve found their comprehensive book on whitework to be very useful. I’ll try the pale blue pencil next time…

I’m away from my desktop computer today so am writing this on the iPad. I mentioned before that I found it quite easy to produce a post using the iPad. However, there is one problem that I’ve not yet resolved and that’s how to crop and otherwise manipulate photos. So the photos in this post are not exactly how I want them to be. Still, I hope you get the general idea…

Post updated 6th March 2015 – I really wasn’t happy with the photos in the original post, so I took some new photos with my proper camera to replace the iPad ones. I think it’s an improvement.


My resolution to do more drawing

I managed to hold to my resolution to do more drawing, although I would, of course, have liked to do more. A friend gave me a rather magnificent bunch of lilies which I’ve been enjoying for days and I decided to do a couple of quick sketches of them. The vase of lilies was against the background of a strong light from outside which meant that when I sat at the table they appeared very dark, almost in silhouette, with very little detail showing. So that’s how I decided to draw them, concentrating on the shapes. The first drawing is of the flowers:Lilies in silhouette

These photos were taken with my iPhone which took it upon itself to decide that flash was needed. This seems to have bounced back off the paper, and the photo is not good. However, I don’t have my camera with me at the moment, so this will have to do.

Then I decided to turn my attention to the leaves, which I think worked rather better:Lily leaves

This is just a detail but you can get the general idea. I felt quite inspired by this, and would like to develop it further. Still, I think that about lots of ideas and never quite manage it….. In this case, it would be interesting to do something with the negative space, possibly by adding some colour, or reversing the black/white. If I copy the image when I get home (I’m currently away on holiday) then I could try a few different approaches and maybe some different papers. But I suspect I know what will happen when I return: I’ll get completely absorbed in everything else that needs doing and will probably forget all about this. Still, I’ve got the drawings, and they’re a possible future source of inspiration.

A little bit of drawing

I said in yesterday’s post that I’d been doing a little bit of drawing. And it really is just a little bit. I would very much like to get into the habit of drawing every day but I’ve never been able to quite manage that. There are times when I do better but it’s never a daily habit. This means, inevitably, that I don’t draw as well as I’d like. But at least I draw sometimes. Here is a drawing of some figs I did the other day. Figs September 2014What doesn’t come across in the drawing is that they had a most delicious figgy scent, so it was a pleasure to be around them. When I’d finished the drawing I ate one, and that was even better.

When doing this, I was concentrating on getting the placement and proportions right. Even though nobody else is going to know whether the figs are drawn accurately, I know, and I try to get it right. This means that when I’m drawing something where accuracy really matters, like a face, then there’s an increased possibility of accuracy.

Of course, accuracy isn’t everything, but I think it’s important in this type of observational drawing to attempt to get close.

There were a couple of different light sources falling on the figs, which is why the shadows are complex. I really like that….

More on triangles

Today, a little bit more on triangles. Over the last few days I’ve been busy, as usual, with other things. The weather has been wonderful and I’ve spent some time trying to beat back the enormous weeds in the garden. However, I’ve found time for a bit of playing around with triangles. Here are some of my monochrome, or largely monochrome efforts:Triangles - monochrome

This is s simple drawn grid, coloured with three different greys in the Karismacolor range of coloured pencils. These pencils, incidentally, are wonderful – waxy and highly pigmented. I bought a large supply several years ago when they were still available in the UK. I think they may still be sold in the US – any intel on where I could buy some more would be very welcome. I’m gradually running out of colours and I’m being very parsimonious with myself in the use of the greys in particular.

Triangles - freestyle

This is a freestyle doodle of joined up triangles. I cut the sketchbook page into a triangle shape so you can see some of the drawing underneath. I really like this trick – you see an image with hints of other images around it.

Finally, another freestyle set of triangles, with some shapes emphasised. This is all great fun to do – none of this takes a long time, but it’s really useful to see what can be done with just one shape.

More freestyle triangles

Doodling with triangles

I decided to award myself a little bit of time off this afternoon to do some doodling with triangles. I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been thinking about triangles…. well, I’ve continued to think but haven’t had time to get anything down on paper.

So today I broke out a new sketchbook and did a little bit of triangle work:

Doodling with triangles






Here’s a close-up: Doodling with triangles

Off to the left you can see the pencil I used. This is a Palomino Blackwing 602. Last month my husband gave me a box of 12 of these pencils which he’d bought in a shop in Ladbroke Grove in London where he was told they were the best pencils in the world. I have been so busy with work since then that I haven’t had the time to even try them out till now. I’ve just been looking up some of the fulsome praise for them on the internet, and they certainly have lots of fans. And I have to say it’s beautiful pencil – a very smooth, very black line, and it seems to hold its point for quite a long time. Best in the world? I wouldn’t like to say unless I’d tried all the pencils in the world, but it’s pretty good.

I have plans to do some more sketchbook work on triangles. Will I ever get it done? Watch this space….